Monday, 10 December 2012

Baking Sunday: Cinnamon Monkey Bread for Domestic Sluttery's Pudding Club

Cinnamon is a very Christmassy spice, isn't it? Add it to mulled wine, spiced biscuits, chocolate cake and it gives an instant festive kick to things. I was considering this when I first heard the Domestic Sluts Pudding Club theme for December was going to be cinnamon and had grand thoughts of festive baking.  Quite how I ended up making this monkey bread bundt, I'm not quite sure really - it's not that Christmassy at all. But it is a bread of yummy goodness with brown sugar caramel and a double hit of cinnamon so I reckon it's still worth writing about. 

I like big bundts and I cannot lie

When I discovered we were having guests staying for Christmas I immediately started planning our Christmas meals (as you do). Obviously festive food is the most indulgent food you can think of and I remembered some buttery cinnamon dough balls I had for breakfast in a diner in America once (home of the most indulgent foods you can think of). A sudden thought struck me - what if there were many of these dough balls in one delicious loaf? Well, the Americans had already got there before me with this delicious treat known as Monkey Bread. It's slightly different to the doughnut like treats I had in that American diner which were dusted dry with powdered sugar and cinnamon but held together with a buttery brown sugar caramel with a very liberal sprinkling of cinnamon. I've also added a cinnamon glaze because really, you can't have a bundt cake and not have a glaze too. I can't wait to make this again at Christmas and it can totally be made ahead too - instructions are in the recipe. Like all great comfort foods, it's best enjoyed still warm the oven and just about falling apart.  This is a Christmas breakfast tradition in the making!



Cinnamon Monkey Bread

Dough
Butter for greasing
30ml melted butter
235ml warmed milk
80ml warmed water
55g granulated sugar
1 sachet of instant yeast
350g plain flour, plus extra for work surface
2 teaspoons table salt

Brown Sugar Coating
200g light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
120ml melted butter

Cinnamon Glaze
100g icing sugar, plus extra if required
1 tablespoons milk, plus extra if required
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Ensure there is an oven rack in a medium-low position and heat oven to 100°C. Turn the oven off once it reaches this temperature.
2. In a large measuring jug, mix together the warm milk and water and the melted butter. (Note: An easy way to do this is to melt the butter in the microwave on low for 1 minute, then add the water and milk and have another 30 seconds in the microwave to warm up). Stir in the sugar and the yeast and leave for 5 minutes for the yeast to bloom.
3. Mix together the flour and the salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the flour and slowly add the milk mixture to the well and stir until mixed.  If you have a stand mixer, use the dough hook to mix until smooth for around 6-7 minutes.  Otherwise turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth for around 10 minutes.  Add some additional flour if the mix is too wet.  Form into a smooth round ball.  
4.  Lightly coat a large bowl with a tablespoon of oil.  Place the dough in the bowl and coat surface of dough with more oil.  Cover the bowl is plastic wrap and place in the warm oven until it doubles in size, for around 1 hour. 
5.  While the dough is proofing, make preparations for the brown sugar coating.  Place the melted butter in one bowl and mix brown sugar and cinnamon in a second bowl.
6.  Once the dough has risen, flip the dough out onto floured surface and gently pat into a flat square.  Break off a small piece and roll into a small ball of dough.  Working one at a time, dip balls in melted butter, allowing excess butter to drip back into bowl.  Roll in brown sugar mixture and then layer balls in Bundt pan.  You can use your hands or a fork - either way, it will get messy.  Don't worry about it not having much volume, it will rise again.
7.  Cover the tin tightly with cling film and place in turned-off oven until dough balls are puffy and have risen to nearly the top of the pan, for around 1 hour.
8.  Remove the tin from oven and heat oven to 170°C.  Remove the cling film from the tin and  bake until top is deep brown and caramel might begin to bubble around edges, around 30 minutes.   9.  Cool in the tin  for 5 minutes (no longer, or you’ll have trouble getting it out) then turn out on platter and allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
10.  While the cake cools, make the glaze.  Beat together the sifted icing sugar, cinnamon and milk together until smooth.  The glaze should be quite runny but have a bit of substance to it, add more milk if required. 
11.  Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake, letting it run over the top and sides of the cake.  Best served warm with a cup of coffee. 

Monday, 26 November 2012

Easy Pancake Ideas with Supper Conjurer-Upper Pancakes

Abra-Ca-Debora Pancakes sent me some of these sweet and original Dutch pancakes to review earlier this month, along with some ingredients to get some inspiration for some recipe ideas.  I love making pancakes on the weekend but these Dutch style pancakes make things oh-so-easy if you know you've got a busy week ahead and won't have time for cooking.  You can make a meal or dessert with them in super quick time - here are some examples of low-effort stress-free recipes that will impress.


This is the perfect cake for someone who loves nutella, chocolate, pancakes and is short on time. It's super duper easy to make and will probably only take about 10 minutes of your precious time. Essentially, it's a cake comprised of pancake and Nutella layers with a gooey chocolate ganache on top - so simple, so delicious. You'll need a whole pack of Abra-Ca-Debora's sweet pancakes - place one on a large plate and completely cover with nutella. Place the next one on top and repeat until you get to the last pancake. To make the chocolate ganache, heat 100mL of double cream until right up until boiling point and then remove from heat. Place 100g of dark chocolate into the pan and let it sit for one minute to allow it to melt, and then stir until smooth. Pour the ganache over the pancakes and spread to cover the top and then sprinkle over some flaked almonds for decoration and crunch and eat immediately.

Chocolate & banana pancakes are a classic favourite, but you can easily add some caramel and biscuit to make some banoffee pancakes. Chop a banana into rounds and toss in some brown sugar. Melt a teaspoon of butter into a frying pan and add the banana slices until soft and cooked through. Heat a sweet pancake in the microwave for 30 seconds, add the banana, a drizzle of caramel sauce (either ice cream topping or tinned similar to evaporated milk) and crumble a digestive biscuit on top. Roll the pancake up and serve with a dollop of ice cream and grated chocolate.  

These pancakes pair together the sweet sour of roasted grapes, balsamic and goats cheese. Preheat the oven to 180° Celsius. Take a handful of grapes, wash them and half them. Place onto an oven dish and drizzle with a small amount of balsamic vinegar and roast for 15 minutes or until they have softened and wrinkled slightly. Warm a plain pancake in the microwave for 30 seconds and then place on a plate. Spread the roasted grapes down the centre and sprinkle over some crumbled goats cheese then roll and enjoy! You could even add some pine nuts too if you wanted some extra crunch, or some fresh thyme for a smoky flavour. 

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and add some chopped mushrooms (around 2 large mushrooms per pancake) and a handful of walnut pieces. Heat until the mushrooms are cooked through and the walnuts are crunchy. Place a plain pancake onto your serving plate (ensure it's a microwavable dish) and place the mushrooms and walnuts in the middle, then sprinkle over some blue cheese (such as Dolcetta). Roll up your pancake and then sprinkle again with grated Swiss cheese. Pop into the microwave for 30 seconds on high, until the pancake is heated through and the cheese has melted.

Here's a creamy twist on sweet lemon pancakes. Mix together 100g of ricotta cheese with 2 tablespoons of icing sugar and the zest of a lemon and then spread down the middle of your pancake. Drizzle over some lemon curd and some fresh blueberries, roll up and serve with some golden syrup.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Best Burger Quest - Mal Brasserie

Another top burger place to visit in Edinburgh, the Malmaison has long been on my list to visit.  The Mal Brasserie is frequently in the top ten of best burger lists in London so I was keen to see how their branch in Edinburgh matched up against other burgers I've tried here.  The price alone, ranging from £15-20 depending on your choice of burger, sets them apart and I had high hopes for a first-rate burger.

Arriving at the Malmaison, I was impressed with the surroundings; the monochrome chequered theme was modern but still luxurious. The Brasserie is more relaxed with brown leather, wooden panelling and exposed brickwork making it cosy and warm.  The restaurant was somewhat darkly lit with candles on the table which makes for a romantic atmosphere but, with the nights now fair drawing in, not particularly helpful for food blogging photography.  We decided not to let our food go cold trying to get a good shot so please excuse that these are a bit on the underexposed side. 

The brasserie menu has a number of local and seasonal choices, including some great seafood selections with a nod to the Malmaison's location near to Newhaven Harbour.  There are three options for burgers on the Brasserie menu - the Classic Mal Burger with bacon, gruyere and fries (at £14.95), the Burger Stack with additional foie gras slider and onion rings and a lobster burger with a fresh mango salsa, lime hollandaise and fries (both at £19.95).  I couldn't pass up trying the Classic Mal burger.



The burger was presented on a wooden board with a large steak knife, a copper pot of relish and a generous pot of french fries (amusingly marked For Your Fries Only - so hands off people!).  My first impressions were that the burger was substantial and looked moist, the toppings were few and I was pleased to note the bun was a shiny brioche. Cutting into the burger with the steak knife showed a beautifully cooked pink burger patty.   On first bite, I was even more impressed - with coarsely ground and good quality meat, it made an excellent burger and was all better for the minimal toppings.  The melted gruyere added a nicely gooey foil for the burger and the bacon an added saltiness but it was nice to have the flavour of the meat come through.  I will also award high points for the spicy relish, which complemented the burger without being overpowering. 

I decided to have try one of the seasonal autumn cocktails and had a Mal Berry Candy (£6.50).  It was one of the best cocktails I've had, with fresh berries and popping candy creating a deep rich blackberry jam flavour with a twist.  I've vowed to come back for a visit to the bar as it was just lovely and I'm looking forward to trying a Spiced Pear Martini and Smoked Apple and Blackberry Bramble on my return. 

My dining companion decided to try the lobster burger, a rather decadent burger option, but apparently the lobster choice was made with nostalgic remembrance of  visits to the west coast of America, where lobster is included in lots of other 'regular' dishes, such as macaroni cheese to great effect. The verdict?  Not quite as enthusiastic as the classic burger.  The burger itself was large and had hunks of lobster meat throughout but not quite enough to get through its sweet meaty flavour and it seemed a bit bogged down with filler. The mango salsa was, however, delightful and full of spicy flavour. 



After our plates were cleared we were asked by our charming waiter if we wanted to look at the dessert menu.  Even though our bellies were starting to groan a little we decided it wouldn't hurt to just have a wee look.  The desserts all sounded tempting and we were given a bit of time to debate what to have.  The service was helpful as well as perfectly timed; attentive but not intrusive - our water glasses remained topped up and we had an excellent recommendation for pudding - Valrhona chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream (£5.95).  This dessert, which has been know to bamboozle Masterchef contestants, was cooked to perfection with chocolate sauce oozing from its baked shell.  It was paired perfectly with salted caramel ice cream.



So dining at the Mal Brasserie was a proper experience rather than just a meal.  The lobster burger was an interesting alternative but not one that I'd recommend over the classic Mal burger which I'd highly recommend.  Is it worth the extra expense?  While it's certainly a bit pricier than your average burger, it's definitely a cut above the average burger and is actually on par price-wise with a lot of places on the Shore in Leith.  The dessert options were excellent, the service was attentive and the setting was really beautiful.  It's a perfect place to visit when you want to spoil yourself or someone else.

The Mal Brasserie
1 Tower Place
Leith
EH6 7BZ

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Baking Sunday: Snickers Cheesecake for the Domestic Sluts Pudding Club


I love cheesecake immensely, so was super pleased when my lovely pal Sara* alerted me to the fact that this was the next Domestic Sluttery Pudding Club theme.  I haven't been baking quite as much recently so I missed out on last month's chocolate theme but can't wait to join in with Pudding Club now cos frankly, the Domestic Sluts are pure awesome.  

I'd actually just made a chocolate cherry cheesecake for the latest Edinburgh Cake Ladies meet up, a very light no-bake version.  Something very interesting happened when I made this cheesecake though - my boyfriend, a confirmed cheesecake hater, not only tried a piece but enjoyed it!  I'd made it in a loaf tin so perhaps it was the shape that bamboozled him but he hadn't realised it was cheesecake at first and was near horrified himself to learn that he'd enjoyed this unholy marriage of both cheese and cake (his main objection to cheesecake being, much like a Peter Kay sketch, that cheese and cake should have nothing to do with each other).  

So I thought I'd challenge myself to make something that he'd really enjoy.  This recipe from Marian Keyes' Saved By Cake caught my eye, mainly because it's made in a loaf tin and Snickers are my boyfriend's favourite chocolate bar.  I hate the fact it's called Blokey Snickers Cheesecake Loaf, apparently because Snickers are "blokey". It reminds me a little bit too much of Yorkie Bars not being for girls, Bic pens - For Her and the forthcoming "diet friendly" Crispello's which are marketed towards women.  But never mind, I enjoyed it plenty and still have all my lady bits intact so all is well.  More importantly, my boyfriend loved it so mission accomplished! This cheesecake is good enough to turn the cheesecake-suspicious into a cheesecake convert.


This is a baked cheesecake, with mascarpone, ricotta cheese and sour cream, which overcomes the sweetness of the Snickers but does mean it's on the rich side.  The base is a basic digestive crust but with salted peanuts added too and four snickers are cut up and mixed into the cheesecake batter.  I've adapted the recipe ever so slightly as the topping should be toffee sauce from a squeezy bottle - instead, I swirled some extra caramel sauce into the batter and added a chocolate ganache topping (just to make it more Snickers-y) but this is far from an essential step - I just love chocolate.  I also tweaked the base ever so slightly as the mix felt a bit too moist.  This cheesecake is best enjoyed with feminist gusto.

* As a side note, I was thinking about how long Sara and I have been friends and it's probably close to ten years of mutually appreciating indiepop, glitter and cats.  Blimey!  I could probably track this via the HDIF photo pages however this would just make me feel really old. 

Snickers Cheesecake Loaf
(slightly adapted from Marian Keyes Saved By Cake)

Ingredients

For the base
180g milk chocolate digestive biscuits
50g salted peanuts
75g butter

For the filling
250g mascarpone cheese
250g ricotta cheese
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
200ml sour cream
4 Snickers bars, chopped into chunks
Optional: Caramel sauce from a jar (I used Waitrose Caramel dipping sauce)

For the chocolate ganache topping
(Note: this is optional - Marian Keyes recipe has the loaf topped with squeezy toffee sauce out of a bottle)
100ml double cream
150g dark or milk chocolate, depending on your preference
A generous handful of salted peanuts

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 170ºC.  Line a 1kg loaf tin with baking paper hanging over the sides. 
2. In a food processor, whizz the biscuits and peanuts so they form a rough-cut, rustic-looking mix; you should still be able to see parts of the peanuts.  
3. Melt the butter and stir it through the crumbs.  Pour the mix into the bottom of the loaf tin and pack down hard, using the base of a glass.  Bake for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and cool, then refrigerate until needed.
4. To make the filling, preheat the oven again to 170ºC.  Mix the two cheeses together, then add the sugar and eggs. Pour in the sour cream, then stir in the Snickers pieces and caramel sauce. Pour in on top of the biscuit base. 
5. Bake for an hour and a half, then turn off the oven and leave it sitting there for as long as you can bear. When you eventually take it out, you’ll be delighted to see the top has developed a gorgeous fudgey look. Refrigerate overnight. 
6. To make the chocolate ganache, place the cream in a small saucepan on medium heat until it just comes to the boil.  Place the chocolate in a mixing bowl and pour the hot cream over, leaving for a few minutes to let the chocolate melt. Whisk mixture together until smooth and then smooth layer over the top of the cheesecake allowing some bits of chocolate to dribble over the side.  Scatter peanuts over the top and enjoy! 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Baking Sunday: Billionaires Shortbread - a sea salt caramel slice


What makes millionaires shortbread so awesome that it has to be renamed billionaires shortbread?  A triple threat of buttery coconut Scottish shortbread, a thick middle layer of sea salted caramel and dark chocolate topping.  It took me a while to find a recipe that had enough caramel to make a thick luscious layer and this version is from the Primrose Bakery Book and is just divine.  The caramel is made not only by cooking condensed milk, golden syrup and butter together, but by baking it for 20 minutes.  This gives the caramel a real richness and the contrast of sea salt with rich sweet caramel makes it truly special.  Each slice probably has about a billion calories, but it is so very rich and delicious that a tiny slice will suffice.  

Billionaires Shortbread (Sea Salted Caramel slice)
(adapted slightly from the Primose Bakery Book)

Ingredients:
Buttery Biscuit Base:
200g plain flour, sifted
90g soft brown sugar
65g desiccated coconut
150g melted butter

Sea Salted Caramel:
115g golden syrup
125g unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces
2 x 397g tins of condensed milk
A large pinch of sea salt

Chocolate Topping:
300g dark chocolate
2 tbsp corn oil
Golden lustre spray (optional - I used Dr Oetker, bought from the Tesco baking aisle)

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Grease a large rectangular baking tin (I used a brownie tray).  Line the base ad the sides with baking paper and extend it above the sides so you can lift the whole slice out easily when it's ready.
2. To make the biscuit base, add the flour and sugar into a bowl.  Add the coconut and butter and mix together until well combined.  Press the mixture evenly and firmly into the baking tin.  Bake for about 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.  Do not overcook or it will have a tendency to break apart. 
3. To make the caramel, put the golden syrup, butter and condensed milk into a saucepan over a low heat until the butter is completely melted.  Add the sea salt and continue cooking for 7-10 minutes as the caramel thickens and darkens in colour.  Pour it over the prepared base and put back in the oven for 20 minutes. 
4. Remove from the oven.  Once it has completely cooled, prepare the chocolate topping by melting the chocolate and oil together very carefully either in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water or in a micro safe bowl in the microwave (heat for 30 seconds, stir and heat for other 30 second bursts until half melted, then stir until all chocolate is melted). 
5. Pour the mixture over the caramel and smooth gently over the top.  Allow to set before removing the whole slab from the tin and cutting into slices.  You can spray gold lustre onto the slices for extra billionaire bling!

Friday, 31 August 2012

Best Burger Quest - The Cambridge Bar




I've been meaning to write about the burgers at the Cambridge Bar for a while now.  A lot of people consider these to be the finest in Edinburgh - I'm not sure if they quite beat Bell's Diner for the top spot in my favourites but I can tell you that they are pretty damn fine.  Being the sister restaurant to Wannaburger, they definitely know a thing or two about how to make great burgers.  The pub is a cosy wee space down the cobbled lanes of the New Town on Thistle Street. There are comfy leather chairs and sofas, big windows which are lovely in the summer, a fireplace perfect for when it’s chilly and a decent choice of wine, Scottish ales and whisky. It comes equipped with big televisions showing background sport.  These are incongruous with the surrounding and, unless you’re both really into watching sport, I wouldn't recommend it as a first date venue.  

There are three core burgers of beef, chicken and bean which have the usual salad and relish toppings (all £6.45), but can also come with a range of topping combinations – fifteen different combinations in fact. These range from classic cheddar or blue cheese to more interesting options like Mexican with peppers, cheddar and chilli sauce and Italiano with homemade pesto and mozzarella. Then there’s the other side of the scale that tips these burgers into the giganto scale – a breakfast burger with bacon, fried egg and mushroom or a fajita burger with spices, chargrilled peppers, onions, cheese, sour cream, guacamole and salsa. Or there is the Aussie burger – topped with bacon, pineapple, mature cheddar beetroot and a fried egg.  It takes a mighty mouth to conquer this beast (priced at £8.95).

 

Thankfully, I am blessed with a massive gob and a boundless sense of culinary adventure. I ordered the Aussie burger and warned my boyfriend in advance, “This is not going to be lady-like.”  Throwing caution to the wind, we ordered some chips and onion rings to share too. He ordered the classic beef burger, just for some balance. 

 
Above is the mammoth task I was faced with and I can confirm that it was indeed less than lady-like. The burger was large and juicy and when stuck joined together it was quite drippy. A lot of people don’t enjoy pineapple in savoury food, but I quite like the sweet contrast that it brings to the bacon and beef. I thoroughly enjoyed eating the burger although perhaps the beetroot was a step too far. It didn’t add a huge amount to the taste and slid about a bit too. But The Cambridge definitely deserves the praise that it receives – it was really one of the best burgers I’ve had for a while. The chips were a perfect sharing portion for two and the onion rings, although light, crispy and delicious, were an eyes-bigger-than-belly choice and were pretty much left untouched. 

Another great selling point for the Cambridge Bar is they do fabulous milkshakes. They're listed under desserts and I can understand why - my chocolate milkshake was super creamy and thick and had flakes of chocolate throughout.  If you’ve got a bigger appetite than me you can also indulge in other puddings like brownies and waffles with ice cream (£3.95).  

The Cambridge Bar is definitely recommended for some really good quality burgers in the city centre.  There are even additional vegetarian options of portabella mushroom with peppers, sundried tomatoes & chargrilled peppers (£7.50) and a haloumi burger with peppers & an olive tapenade (£7.95).  Just make sure you have a good appetite when you go!

The Cambridge Bar
20 Young Street
Edinburgh
EH2 4JB
Tel : 0131 226 2120

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Salted Caramel & Cocoa Nib Brownies


Last time I visited London I was very lucky that one of my best pals knows me oh so well bought me a wee treat in the form of Paul A Young's salted caramel, cocoa nib and white chocolate brownie.  Put simply, it was damn fine - the best brownie I'd ever eaten.  The flavour was intense, with the sweetness of the caramel offset with a slight saltiness and an ever so slightly bitter crunch from the cocoa nibs adding some contrast to the 70% cocoa dark chocolate.  The texture was dense, fudgy and supremely gooey.  It was so rich that I could only have tiny amounts at a time - a quarter here, a nibble there until the sad time when it was all gone.
  
Cocoa nibs from Coco Chocolate


I thought of this brownie wistfully from time to time, as one does when one thinking of a lost love nostalgically.  "That brownie was the best.  I wish I could get my brownies that gooey.  I wish they'd open a shop in Edinburgh," I'd think whilst munching other brownies which, whilst tasty, weren't quite the same.   Recently I happened to pop into Coco Chocolate on Broughton Street and found some cocoa nibs for sale.  Straight away, I knew I had to try get them and replicate this brownie - it was my new baking mission.  

My version - heavy with salted caramel and nibs

But how to make these brownies?  How to get them so fudgy?  Well, I googled Paul A Young and salted caramel brownies and whaddyaknow - someone had already had pretty much these self same thoughts.  Reason #86 why I love the internet.  The rather beautiful Poires au Chocolat blog has posted a recipe for Paul A Young's super duper dense brownie and a salted dry caramel to pour over the top and I am forever grateful.  She has also made the genius suggestion of freezing these brownies which suits them perfectly, seeing as they're so rich they'll last a really long time that way (for which my teeth will be forever grateful).  I would absolutely recommend making these for a special treat and if you're able to resist eating the lot, you'll get to enjoy these from the freezer for a long time too, so visit Poires au Chocolat for the recipe

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes




Joy the Baker's blog is pretty special - it's beautifully designed and photographed and full of the best baking and dessert treats you can think of.  Seriously, look at the recipe index and be suitably impressed that Booze, Bread and Pie have their own categories.  I want to make everything she makes and can only hope it looks half as beautiful.  Joy's first cookbook was published earlier this year and it's cover proclaims that it's a "celebration of butter and sugar" - don't doubt this!  These are American style recipes in a more-is-more way - think coffee bacon, chocolate and salty peanut butter ice cream, chocolate hazelnut spread with orange cream cheese grilled sandwiches, apple pie crostadas and baked coffee cake fresh toast. There is elegance amongst the decadence too and desserts such as dark chocolate and anise biscotti, honey and toasted walnut ice cream, grapefruit souffle pudding and chocolate, goats cheese and black pepper truffles. If you're sick of hearing about "classics with a twist" (as commented on by another noted food blogger recently) you may not be a fan of this book, but these are so incredible they should keep even the most "new-spin"-fatigued baker interested. There's definitely more of an emphasis on the sweet side of things and the savoury items are more snacks than anything particularly substantial but notable inclusions are baked chili cheese fries, Parmesan seaweed popcorn and black pepper bacon waffles. 

The book starts off with Joy's top kitchen tips which is full of helpful information, such as how to make a buttermilk substitute and explains what makes up cake flour, which I think is particularly good to know for UK readers. It also has how-to's on making your own brown sugar and vanilla extract, seasoning skillet pans and how to get the best from your ingredients.

The rest of the chapters are loosely connected via types of food - breakfast, comfort foods, celebration, chocolate and foods that transport well for parties. To be honest, it's slightly confusing as any given recipe could be classed in several of the chapters but this is the most minor of quibbles. As a blogger's cookbook, all of the recipes are accompanied with beautiful photographs and Joy's personal musings about her life, family and baking career. I quite enjoy her open style of writing - it's all a bit tongue in cheek and meant to be a giggle.



These pancakes are taken from the breakfast chapter entitled "Pancakes Pancakes Pancakes - and lesser breakfast items" which I am totally down with - pancakes are, after all, the king of breakfast. There are six different pancake variations which are all not only are there these awesome oatmeal cookie pancakes, there's also carrot cake, courgette & potato and blueberry, orange & almond pancakes with orange maple glaze. The "lesser" breakfast items are no such thing - they include delicious sounding baked coffee cake french toast, extra crumb coffee cake, whole wheat honey and goat cheese drop biscuits and oatmeal raspberry ginger scones. These pancakes are a perfect lazy morning treat, they don't require any hard work and are proper fluffy American style pancakes made special with spices and raisins. I also added some dessicated coconut as I usually add them when I make my oatmeal cookies and they add a nice extra touch of sweetness. Serve these in mini stacks with maple syrup and a pat of butter as soon as you can after making them.

Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes
Recipe by Joy the Baker
(makes about 40 mini pancakes)

Ingredients:
175g plain flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 large eggs
475mL buttermilk (or buttermilk substitute)
55g melted butter, cooled
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup dessicated coconut

Method:
1. Place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to a low temperature of around 100 degrees Celsius. This will keep the cooked pancakes warm while you finish the entire batch.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and spices. Set aside.
3. In a medium bowl., whisk together eggs, buttermilk, male syrup and melted butter. Add the buttermilk mixture, all at once, to the flour mixture and fold together with a spatula until all of the flour is incorporated. Fold in the raisins and dessicated coconut. Let stand for 5 minutes.
4. Heat griddle/frying pan over medium heat and add a touch of butter to melt. Spoon or pour small rounds of batter onto the hot griddle. Heat until the bottom is browned and the top is bubbly. Flip and cook through, about 2 minutes on each side. Place on a heatproof plate in the oven to rest until ready to serve.
5. Serve in stacks with maple syrup. Pancakes are best served immediately.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Weekend Brunch: Nobles Bar



One of the questions I am frequently asked on Twitter is where can the best brunch in Edinburgh be found? In Edinburgh we are spoilt for great brunch venues, with most places doing all day brunches over the weekends so you can enjoy a not quite breakfast, not quite lunch at any point of the day. One of my favourite places that’s always on the list is Nobles Bar, a short walk from the Shore in Leith. Their brunches run from 11am - 5pm on weekends and have a great balance between traditional breakfasts like a full Scottish brekky (£8.95), smoked salmon eggs benedict (£5.95) or eggs any way you like ‘em (from £2.95) with more interesting choices like pancakes with bacon & syrup (£6.45) or creamed tarragon mushrooms on brioche toast with pine nuts and spinach (£5.95). I must admit I do favour places that have a late brunch - not only could I happily eat breakfast food at any time of the day, I'm also disgustingly slovenly on weekends and it is highly unusual for me to venture out for a weekend brunch before 12pm.  My last visit coincided with a day that was kind of all over the place and resulted in me having pancakes at 4:30 - that's a win in any pancake lover's book. 



There are also some options of classic pub grub lunches - burgers (£8.75), fish chips (£8.50), nachos (£4.95) and a damn fine selection of sandwiches including duck pastrami, chicken caesar salad and steak & caramelised onions (£6.45), all served with salad and chips. My top picks are the eggs Benedict – the eggs are always poached to perfection. The steak sandwich is definitely a favourite too – chunky bites of steak in a crisp baguette with fries has saved many of my hangovers in the past.



Nobles is truly beautiful inside, with stained glass windows paying homage to Leith's fine seafaring tradition and tables painted with octopus tentacles, waves and other such nautical imagery. The table service has always been friendly and swift and our traditional order for coffee (very good) and orange juice (okay) is usually taken straight away. It’s a large-ish pub so booking isn’t essential but I would phone ahead if you’re arriving after 1 o’clock. 



Nobles is very much a drinkers' pub rather than a foodies' destination with Black Isle Brewery making a strong showing along with other Scottish beers on tap. It’s the type of place you can stop for brunch, have a few drinks and find that you’ve been there the past four hours – what better way to spend a lazy Sunday…?

Nobles Bar
44a Constitution Street
Leith
EH6 6RS
Tel: 0131 629 7215

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Baking Sunday: Cherry Coconut Meringue Cake


I've always loved meringues - obviously I love the eating of them but I love making them too. Maybe it's something to do with being brought up in Australia, where baking reputations are made (or can fall) upon the quality of one's pavlova and an appreciate of our national dish is practically law. It's amazing that the humble egg white can be transformed into so many different meringue variations with the simple addition of sugar (and a few other ingredients for something fancy). Once you've got the knack of making meringues it becomes easy peasy - it took me about 10 minutes to make the meringue mix for this cake, from cracking the eggs to putting the tins in the oven. I know baking is all about science but it's still magical to me that a tasty cake is the result. 

My top meringue tips are similar to most of the others you'll read. Make sure there's not a trace of yolk with the whites, clean and dry your bowl and whisks thoroughly and add the sugar gradually and continuously after soft peaks form. My other top tip is to add a teaspoon of cream of tartar to the egg whites before you start whisking - just sprinkle it on and it'll add stability and volume. Adding vinegar also helps to stabilise them but these additional ingredients are by no means essential. It'll just help things along by altering the pH of the egg whites to prevent them from deflating.


This is kind of a summery cake that's not too sweet and a good standby recipe when you have leftover egg whites or just fancy making a light dessert cake.  I'd really recommend using coconut flakes instead of desiccated coconut as it gives a better crunch (I got mine from Real Foods). The original recipe called for chopped hazelnuts, so you could use these or flaked almonds instead if you don't like coconut with a vanilla essence however it would be lovely as just a plain meringue cake too.  I added cherries as we had a punnet of them in (it is summer somewhere, believe it or not) but any berry would be delicious in this. My Tealicious co-conspirator Michelle is always saying that she has too many leftover egg whites from making creme patisserie and curds so maybe she'll appreciate this cake as a way to use up leftover egg whites.

Coconut Cherry Meringue Cake
(adapted from Supper with Rosie)

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 egg whites 
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
250g caster sugar 
1 teaspoon coconut essence (if available)
1 teaspoon white vinegar
100g flaked / desiccated coconut
275g double cream
200g cherries, pitted and quartered
icing sugar, for dusting
flaked coconut for decoration

Method:
1. Line two 20cm round cake tins with foil and grease with vegetable oil. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
2. Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl and whisk until stiff. Gradually fold in the caster sugar, whisking continually, then add coconut essence (if using) and vinegar. The meringue should have stiff peaks and should hold its shape (you can do the old "hold bowl of meringue over head" test at this point if you so desire). Gently fold in the coconut, making sure to do this carefully so as not to lose any air.
3. Divide the mixture evenly between the cake tins and smooth down. Bake for 10 mins at 200 degrees and then turn the temperature down to 170 degrees Celsius and cook for a further 20 minutes. 
4. Remove the meringues from the oven and leave to cool. Only remove them from their tins when they are completely cold (which won't take as long as a cake - about 30 mins). They will be very delicate so do take care.
5. Whip the double cream until it forms firm peaks, then fold in the cherries. Put one of the meringue cakes on a serving plate and spread the cream mixture over. Seal with the second meringue cake on top and then dust with icing sugar and sprinkle some coconut flakes on to serve. Keep cake refrigerated.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Baking Sunday: Nutella Bread Pudding


Sometimes I plan meticulously what I want to bake and other times I find baking inspiration strikes me when I'm out and about.  I was doing my usual groceries shop the other day when I chanced upon something quite wonderful - milk choc chip brioche loaf from Warburtons. Brioche is already a rich buttery treat on its own, but choc chip brioche takes it to a whole other level and the first thing I thought was "I must buy this!" quickly followed by "This would make amazing bread pudding!" It just so happened that there was a jar of Nutella in my trolley as well and the idea for this dish was borne. It's super easy to make - just like making a few Nutella sandwiches really and it makes the kitchen smell gorgeous whilst it bakes. You can of course use normal white bread but the brioche makes it an extra rich treat.  So if you want to pretend it's November again and have some winter comfort food (because it sure feels like it in Scotland at the moment) then this is perfect for the job. 

Nutella Bread Pudding

Ingredients:
12 slices choc chip brioche loaf, or white bread
1 jar of Nutella
230ml single cream
250ml milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
50g sugar
3 large eggs


Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 170° Celcius and lightly grease a square baking dish with butter.
2. Make 6 sandwiches with the bread and a thick spread of nutella. Cut each sandwich into 4 pieces and place them evenly into the prepared baking dish.  If there's room for any more, spread nutella over a couple of single slices and place these on top. 
3. Whisk together the sugar and eggs in a bow and then mix in the cream, milk, salt, and vanilla.
4. Pour the mixture over the bread. If you have time, you could let this soak in for 30 minutes but it doesn't matter if you skip this step.
5. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, checking after 20 minutes - the pudding should be golden brown, and if it looks like it's browning too much, cover with foil for the remainder of the cooking time. The finished pudding should be puffy and golden brown on top, wait for 5 minutes for the pudding to settle before serving.  Best served on the day of making with some cream or ice cream. 

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Baking Sunday: Fruity Flapjacks


I was recently asked on Twitter if I had a good flapjack recipe. I immediately thought of these fruity flapjacks made by Smitten Kitchen. They're listed as granola bars on Deb's site but are really more of an upgraded flapjack because American's don't have flapjacks (or downgraded, depending on your views on dried fruit and flapjack purity). I would always prefer this version over a regular flapjack, which I like, but generally find too sweet and a wee bit plain. I decided to make two versions of flapjacks though - just to be 100 per cent sure I wasn't missing out on anything and to see whether the simple pleasure of a plain flapjack could compare. I had a look online and made Felicity Cloake's flapjacks from her How to Cook the Perfect... series. This is a defiantly traditional flapjack, with the only real point of note is that two types of oats are used - jumbo rolled (usually the pricey kind) and quick-cook (usually the cheapest kind). The quick cook oats are a thin lot but make the bars stick together well. Instead of buying two different types of oats though, you can quickly pulse some through a food processor for the same effect. These were a doddle to make and very tasty, but I really couldn't stop eating the fruity ones and can now definitely say that these are my favourite flapjacks to eat. The additional fruit and nuts add a bit of flavour variety and texture and means you can also decrease the amount of sugar added as well. I just used pretty much what I had in the kitchen; my favourite inclusions are coconut, sunflower seeds and dried apricots. You can pretty much add anything you want - rice krispies, sultanas, dried cherries, pecans, chocolate chips... whatever you like! Other non-traditional ingredients are some peanut butter or tahini, which help the mix to stick together more, and some corn syup - a very American inclusion, but one that  helps to 'set' the mix (however is not essential, just helpful). It's a wee bit more work than your traditional flapjacks but definitely worth the effort. Don't worry about the mix being too liquidy, just make sure that you let the flapjacks cool completely if they need to be cut up and not crumble. You can speed this up by popping them in the fridge or freezer after about 20 minutes. Another note - these also freeze really well if you're able to stop eating them straight out the oven! Just cut into slice and pop into a freezer proof box or wrap in cling film. 

Fruity Flapjacks
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients:
170g porridge or jumbo oats plus 30g of quick-cook or processed oats
100g sugar 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
2 cups mix of dried fruits and nuts (total of around 285g - I used a mix of dessicated coconut, sunflower seeds, pistachios, walnuts, dried apricots, dried 'cherries and berries' mix and rum soaked sultanas)
75g peanut butter or tahini
85g melted butter
60mL honey or golden syrup
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (optional, if available)
1 tablespoon water

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 175°C. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray. Note: You will need something slightly bigger than a brownie pan, I used a roasting tin.

2.Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, golden syrup, corn syrup (if using) and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry (and peanut butter/tahini, if you’re using it) until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan. (A piece of cling film can help with this, as you press down on the back of it.)

3. Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges — don’t be afraid to get a little colour on the tops too. They’ll still seem soft and almost underbaked when you press into the centre of the pan but do not worry, they’ll set completely once completely cool.

4. Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. (Alternately, after about 20 minutes you can use your parchment “sling” to lift and remove the bars, and place them in their paper on the rack to cool the rest of the way. This can speed the process up.)

5. Once cool, use a knife to cut the bars into squares. If bars seem crumbly, chill the pan of them further in the fridge for 30 minutes which will fully set the “glue”, then cut them cold. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container. In humid weather, it’s best to store bars in the refrigerator.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Independent Edinburgh: Office Lunches

As it's increasingly common for cities to be flooded with chains, I love that there is such a strong independent food scene in Edinburgh. There are local businesses who are genuinely passionate about food and want to provide something different and inventive - there's no substitute for these independent voices amongst a bland backdrop of Pret A Manger / Pizza Express / ad nauseum. Sadly, in recent times, quite a few of these independent shops and cafes have closed - RIP the Bruntsfield branch of Peckhams, Black Bos and most sadly for me, Tea Tree Tea and Tollcrust where I would often go to get some awesome sandwiches for lunch. 

Lunch time at Milk, Morrison Street
I try to support independent shops where I can and an easy way to do this is if I get my work lunch from out and about. If you follow my twitter feed, you'll have been 'treated' to some of my #lunchtweets - yes, I'm one of those annoying people who do actually post pictures up of my lunch. I work near Lothian Road where there are plenty of lovely independent cafes and shops to get lunch from and it's nice to give them a bit of exposure. It's good to spread the word - I first heard of Two Thin Laddies after my friend mentioned their legendary macaroni & cheese when I started working in this area. In the spirit of such, below are my choice picks of Independent Edinburgh to hit up in your lunch break. Remember - if you don't use 'em, you lose 'em. These are all takeaway places I actually visit in my lunch break so very much limited to the Lothian Road / Tollcross area. Feel free to add your own suggestions as it's by no means intended to be an exhaustive list or guide, just some lovely places that I like to visit.


Hula Juice Bar and Cafe, 103-105 West Bow. Edinburgh, EH1 2JP
Hula sell the best fresh juices and smoothies in Edinburgh – they’ve got a great range with cute names like the Whirling Dervish, Betty Ford, Ginger Jack and the legendary Sunshine In A Cup (peach, mango & orange and my favourite!). Their lunches revolve around a range of toasted bagels, wraps and soups, with lovely options like pesto chicken with sun dried tomato, roasted vegetable and guacamole and chilli tuna. Soups are not your standard fare either and they’ll have fun soupy specials like Aussie Shiraz & sweet potato for Australia Day. Their lunch deal is £4 for soup and a toasted bagel or wrap to take away. They’re also big Independent Edinburgh supporters, and sell Artisan Roast coffee and Burgh Bakes marshmallows as well as holding events which feature other local independent shops like Godiva and Love Materialise and supporting events like Record Store Day at Avalanche Records

Illegal Jacks, 113-117 Lothian Road, Edinburgh, EH3 9AN
When you want something a bit more substantial than soup or a sandwich for lunch, Jacks is the way to go. Burritos, tacos, quesadillas - all your Mexican favourites are there for takeaway and you can sit in for some sizzling fajitas and nachos too. The portions are generous and there are comfy booths (and free wifi) in the large seating area if you want to sit in – you can even reserve your table via Twitter! There’s a lunch deal of a burrito and a soft drink for £5 takeaway and a good selection of beers and cider if you’re lucky enough to be able to sneak one in at lunch. 

Loudons, 94b Fountainbridge, EH3 9QA
With huge glass windows, Scandi-minimalist decor and their own bakery underneath, Loudons is one of the nicest places in town to visit.  They always have takeaway friendly hot lunches, with daily quiche, pizzas and soups and have interesting sandwich choices too: current favourites are almond chicken with allspice tomato chutney on a wholemeal cheesey bap and rare roast beef with brie and house pickled onion on zopf egg bread.  There's always a selection of their excellent artisan bread available to buy as well as a large selection of cakes (and there's always gluten free options available too).  Loudons get even more bonus points for stocking The Rock Lobster handmade chocolates and another Independent Edinburgh shop, La Cerise's ice creams. 

Love Crumbs, 155 West Port, EH3 9DP
Not exactly a takeaway lunch destination, but a brand new vintage-style café that just sells cakes. They actually have a cupboard that is full of cakes – not your average traybakes either, I’m talking about proper lovely rose and raspberry cake, peach meringue pies, salted chocolate tarts, Vicky sponge and madeleines. There are teas from the very lovely Anteaques too (including a lush violet flavour) - another Independent Edinburgh love-in!

Milk, 232 Morrison Street, EH8 8EA
A visit to Milk takes me past Edinburgh’s perfunctory heavy roadworks and corporate glass facades to escape to a charming 1950s style café with white tiles, good music and some superb food. There’s a seasonal menu which offers a real alternative to the many boring sarnie shops on Morrison Street – brie with chilli jam & rocket, roast chicken with rosemary, almond & slow roasted tomato pesto and slow roasted pork with coleslaw are some of their very tasty spring menu options with none above £3.50. Their artisan bread is from local baker Au Gourmand and is excellent. Hot dishes are available to take away too and the lamb tagine with chickpeas, fennel and apricots (£5.40) is a top pick, along with thai green chicken curry and veggie chilli. With nearly everything made on premises, including some lovely cakes too, it’s a real foodie lunch treat.

Parma ham, cheese & tomato panini
 from Pronto
Pronto, 32 Morrison Street, EH3 8BJ
A newbie to the lunch scene, selling excellent Italian style sandwiches and grilled paninis - only really included for two reasons: a) it's the closest decent sandwich shop to my work and b) they sell Fonzies (which are Twisties for any Australians) - kind of like a crunchy Wotsit, but much better! Their name belies the pace of their service somewhat; however, they've only  been open for about a month so hopefully that will improve. Top picks are the Italian deli grilled sandwiches such as grilled zuchini, goats cheese & rocket and baked goods such as chorizo stromboli or vegetable panzarotti.

Thyme, 44 Earl Grey Street, EH3 9BN
There's usually a queue going out the door at Thyme - it comes as no surprise as their inventive sandwiches, soups and soups are worth the wait. Their speciality is huge salads which you can get with a mix of cous cous and salad leaves and add-ins like falafel, roast peppers, spicy chickpeas, edamame, roast sweet potato and all the usual suspects. Their range of sandwiches is also good and they're all freshly made of whatever you'd like - I'm very partial to their coronation chicken with mango chutney and their turkey brunch combo with avocado and coleslaw. They have some lovely soups and on the sweets front, there are traybakes available too.

Specials board at Two Thin Laddies

Two Thin Laddies, 103 High Riggs, EH3 9RP
A bright yellow family run cafe that wears its roots proudly, there's a real DIY feel to Two Thin Laddies - with handwritten signs for their "legendary macaroni cheese", "mother in law's carrot cake" and their "world's finest cheese scones" they're clearly not above bigging themselves up either! And frankly, they do have good reason - the cheese scones and macaroni are damn fine. A little bit pricier than other options (only by a fraction), you do get very large portions (I once nearly ruined a dress after some of my chicken and green herb risotto leaked out of its very full container). Visiting Two Thin Laddies is a really homely experience and their comfort food means it's a good destination for a naughty Friday lunch - chicken enchiladas and homemade beef chilli and rice are my other faves, along with their range of home baking. 

Union of Genius, 8 Forrest Road, EH1 2QN
This is probably as far as I'd venture for my lunch, and it's absolutely worth the journey as their ever changing daily soups range from beautifully turned out classics such as spiced double lentil, butternut & bacon, and Moroccan harira to the type that I really must make a special effort to travel out there for (even in the rain) to try like roast cauliflower & gorgonzola, Hungarian stew with dumplings and beetroot & apple. You can also get bread bowls to hold your soup in and they have a recycling scheme for their plastic soup bowls. It's everything you'd want from a soup cafe really. Not only this but the soups are served with bread from Dough Re Mi, and Artisan Roast coffee is available along with cakes from Love Pure Cakes and hot chocolate from The Chocolate Tree and Coco Chocolate. Union of Genius are absolutely embracing the Independent Edinburgh ethos.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Scandi Style: Beetroot Orzotto


I am going through a mini-obsession with everything Scandinavian at the moment.  It started when I first bought the Scandilicious book and saw Signe Johansen demonstrating some beautifully simple Scandi dishes.  Other signs were an addiction to Scandi crime drama, lusting after stylish Scandi design, cravings for dill and meatballs, buying the Moomins cookbook - yep it's definitely become an obsession.  So I was super happy to get a place for the Scandi menu at the last My Home Supper, before it goes on a brief hiatus whilst Aoife works on some new exciting projects.  The menu was pretty much perfect - the highlights for me were the veal and pork meatballs with cowberry compote, homemade sloe berry gin and prosecco, freshly baked caraway seed bread and all the fresh flavours of beetroot, fennel, celeriac and dill (you can get the full run down of the menu here).  My Home Supper is always such a fun evening, Aoife and Damian are the most welcoming of hosts and I couldn't imagine anyone not loving the food and atmosphere there. 

After this feast, I wanted to make something Scandi inspired and found this lovely recipe for beetroot orzotto on the rather beautiful Scandi Foodie blog - which is, as you'd expect, beautifully designed and has a huge amount of gorgeous fresh recipes.  I love beetroot and this simple dish combines it with barley, rosemary and green garlic.  It is perfect for the semi-wintry weather we're having here in Scotland and it's versatile too - it's a great side dish or add a poached egg or some goats cheese on top and you have a really nice meal.  I've been having my orzotto for my work lunch and eating it with my munchy seeds, it goes down a treat.  It also looks very pretty on a plate!


Beetroot Orzotto
From Scandi Foodie blog
(serves 4-6)

Ingredients:
4 small/medium sized beets
1 1/2 cups pearl barley
2 green garlics, finely chopped (using regular garlic is fine, I used wild garlic)
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 to 1 1/2 litres hot vegetable stock
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon walnut oil (I used ground nut oil)

Method:
1. Wash the beets and cut out the leaves leaving a small stalk attached. Place the beets in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil, then let simmer for 30-40 minutes or until fully tender. Drain, slip off the skins and mash into a purée.
2. While the beets are cooking, start cooking the barley. There are a couple of ways to go about this. You could either sauté the green garlic, rosemary and pearl barley in some olive oil for a few minutes, then add stock OR just add the stock, pearl barley, garlic and rosemary into a large pan and bring to boil. Keep adding stock if necessary until the barley is fully cooked. This will take about 40 minutes.
3. Add the mashed beets, olive oil and walnut oil into the barley and season with freshly ground black pepper. Simmer for a few minutes or just let it sit, covered, for 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Super Sweets: Raspberry Marshmallows


Raspberry and Orange sherbet marshmallows at Tealicious
Photo by Wendy Paterson

I made some raspberry and orange sherbet marshmallows for Tealicious as part of our retro sweeties menu and they were delightful. Marshmallows seem like the type of sweet that would be impossible to create yourself, but it is indeed possible and homemade ones taste a lot better than the ones you get in the shops (see Burgh Bakes as a prime example of homemade marshmallow goodness). These puffy little fellows are not the product of witchcraft, just old fashioned elbow grease and they're fun to make at home - you can make different flavours and colours (see below for some flavour options), cover them in sprinkles, fresh fruit or herbs and pipe or cut them into different shapes. They are relatively straightforward to make - however, before you even begin to consider this, you need to a) make sure you have the right equipment and b) make sure you are super prepared to grease everything up because boy are they sticky! The sugar syrup will stick to everything, the marshmallow batter is even stickier and once they’re set – you better believe they’re still sticky. Some recipes require egg whites, but I use Bea Vo’s recipe from her awesome afternoon tea book Tea With Bea, which is a relatively simple method where golden syrup infused sugar syrup is mixed at high speed into some gelatine. That is essentially the process, but obviously there are steps you need to follow stringently.

Firstly, I would say do not go ahead and make these unless you at least have a handheld electric mixer.  Ideally you want a stand mixer as there is a very hot batter being whipped at high speed for about 10 minutes, if not more.  If you only have an electric mixer you’ll need a helper to pour the sugar syrup into bowl whilst you whisk at the highest speed like buggery – it might even be an idea to wear rubber gloves in case some of the mix splashes.  Secondly I would strongly recommend you use a sugar thermometer to ensure that the syrup gets to the correct ‘firm ball’ stage (120º C) unless you're experienced enough with making sugar syrup to know when it reaches this stage (it usually takes around 10 minutes).  Once the two mixes combine, the recipe says to mix until 'bubble gum like strands' appear.  All I can say about that is, you'll know what this is when you see it.  It'll look like a stiff meringue mix but you'll need to go slightly beyond this stage until the mix actually appears slightly rubbery. If you're not sure, my advice is to keep going.

I can't emphasise enough how helpful it is to grease everything that might come into contact with the marshmallow batter - I have a baking spray that I even spray the sides of my mixing bowl and saucepan with, but just a bit of oil rubbed around the sides should do the trick.

Vanilla Marshmallows (from Tea with Bea)

Ingredients:
20g powdered gelatine
120ml cold water
440g caster sugar
200ml water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
cooking spray, for the baking pan (and everything else the marshmallow touches!)
cornflour/icing sugar for coating
brownie/baking pan, 30cm x 20cm x 5cm (or two regular brownie pans), lined with parchment or cling film

Method:

1. Put the gelatine and the 120ml cold water in large mixing bowl and stir. Let sit and allow the gelatine to swell or 'bloom'.
2. Put the sugar, golden syrup and the 200ml  water in a large saucepan and stir to combine.  Brush the insides of the saucepan with clea water to dislodge any stray grains of sugar.  Bring to a boil, add a sugar thermometer and keep cooking to bring to firm ball stage, 120º C/248º F.
3. Whisking at maximum in a stand mixer or an electric whisk, slowly add the sugar syrup to the gelatine mixture.  Whisk thoroughly until thick, bubble gum-like strands form (approxiately 8-10 minutes).  Stir in the vanilla extract. 
4. Before pouring into the tin, spray everything with cooking spray including spatulas, spoons, hands, tins - everything!
5. Spoon the mixture into the prepared brownie pan and spread eenly.  Sift some icing sugar over the top and let rest for 2 hours.
6. Using a greased knife, cut the marshmallows into cubes and toss into a plateful of icing sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Variations
Raspberry: reduce the cold water to 60ml for adding to gelatine. Fold in 60ml raspberry coulis until streaky. Continue recipe as above, after pouring batter into tin, add some fresh raspberries and then sift icing sugar over the top.  
Baileys: replace the vanilla extract with a shot of Baileys (or more to taste).
Other fruit variations: replace the vanilla extract with fruit juice or cordial, or fruit coulis. 
Orange sherbet: replace the vanilla with orange oil and sprinkle the batter with orange sherbet instead of icing sugar.